Apple demands Telegram remove posts related to Belarus protests, controversy ensues

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2020
Apple is embroiled in yet another App Store controversy after it demanded that Telegram remove content related to the ongoing political scandal in Belarus.

Telegram


Outlined by Telegram CEO Pavel Durov in a post to his own platform, the controversy lies not only in what Apple requested, but also how it structured the demand under App Store guidelines.

On Oct. 8, Durov said Apple requested Telegram shut down three content channels run by pro-democracy protestors. Owners of the channels used Telegram's public forum feature to disseminate information on resistance efforts targeting Belarusian President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who is in a standoff with opponents after running a rigged election in September.

Uprisings in the country have been met with violence and Lukashenko this week threatened to use lethal weapons against protestors. The Belarusian president is currently facing down the specter of European Union sanctions if he does not agree to new elections, according to The New York Times.

Apple waded into the fray by declaring certain posts in violation of App Store rules. The company was concerned that publishing the personal information of law enforcement officials could incite violence, Durov said.

"I think this situation is not black and white and would rather leave the channels be, but typically Apple doesn't offer much choice for apps like Telegram in such situations," Durov wrote in a post dated Oct. 8. "Unfortunately, I assume these channels will end up getting blocked on iOS, but remain available on other platforms."

Apple later told Gazeta that it did not want to close the channels, but instead sought the removal of specific posts "disclosing personal information." Durov countered, saying the three accounts in question "consist entirely of personal information of violent oppressors and those who helped rig the elections," concluding that the removal of offending posts effectively equates to shutting down those channels.

As noted by Daring Fireball's John Gruber on Wednesday, the Telegram controversy goes beyond App Store rules and raises questions as to how Apple enforces developer regulations.

In a Telegram post on Oct. 9, Durov points to policies that disallow developers from explaining App Store guidelines to customers.

"Previously, when removing posts at Apple's request, Telegram replaced those posts with a notice that cited the exact rule limiting such content for iOS users," he wrote. "However, Apple reached out to us a while ago and said our app is not allowed to show users such notices because they were "irrelevant"." (Emphasis in original)

Apple caught flak for leveling identical restrictions on Facebook in August. At the time, the social network wanted to issue a transparency notice informing users that it would not be able to roll out a paid event tool on iOS due to the App Store's customary 30% fee. Apple rejected the announcement as "irrelevant."

"I strongly disagree with Apple's definition of "irrelevant". I think the reason certain content was censored or why the price is 30% higher is the opposite of irrelevant," Durov said.

Telegram has butted heads with Apple in the past. In 2018, the app was temporarily banned from the App Store for hosting child pornography. More recently, Durov in July filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission over App Store fees and platform control.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    Why is Apple against the pro-democracy protests in Belarus? 
    rcfacornchipmacseekerbluefire1PetrolDavechemengin1iHyOfer
  • Reply 2 of 29
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,653member
    Sorry bit this is not any of Apple's business.  
    rcfacornchipmacseekerBeatsbluefire1PetrolDaveuraharaDAalsethNotoriousDEVchemengin1
  • Reply 3 of 29
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,083member
    Weird. Better shut down Safari, then.
    rcfacornchipbluefire1PetrolDaveNotoriousDEVOfer
  • Reply 4 of 29
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,124member
    Disgusting that Apple would side with a vile authoritarian regime!
    Does it really have to be about gay rights before Tim
    Cook smells the coffee?
    🤮

    Apple has no right to banish Telegram over contents, particularly not over contents that could be accessed via its own Safari browser!

    There’s nothing inherent about Telegram pertinent to the information posted, other than Telegram being an uncensored communications platform that anyone can use to transmit whatever information they want to transmit.

    What information Party A transmits to Party B using a tool C provided by party D that happens to be distributed by party E’s (Apple) using their platform F (AppStore), is utterly irrelevant. 

    Does Apple really want to be internet censor?
    Is Safari going to include a filter getting rid of information any arbitrarily authoritarian government anywhere objects to?
    If not, why does Apple interfere with Telegram?

    if Russia, China, Belarus, and North Korea object to Telegram, and Apple really wants to be a commercial whore, then remove the app from those countries AppStores, but don’t pretend the App is in violation of anything other than Apple’s desire to maximize profits in regions with authoritarian governments.

    Stop preaching about how privacy is at the core of Apple’s philosophy. Nobody needs privacy for dick pictures, we need privacy to overthrow oppressive governments!
    cat52iHyOfer
  • Reply 5 of 29
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,919member
    Nobody blames the stockholders. The stockholders own the company and elect the board of directors who can hire or fire the CEO. The problem is that the stockholders care more about money than human rights. Thus Tim Cook obliges them. The buck stops at the stockholders, who are represented at Apple by the Board of Directors. They want Apple to do business in every single dictatorship in the world. Let's name the Apple Board of Directors here, because this is where the real blame lies:

    NameTitleBoard role
    Arthur D. LevinsonFormer Chairman and CEO, 
    Genentech
    Chairman of the Board
    Compensation Committee
    James A. BellFormer CFO and Corporate President,
    The Boeing Company
    Audit Committee
    Tim CookCEO, Apple
    Albert A. Gore Jr.Former Vice President
    of the United States
    Compensation Committee 
    Nominating Committee
    Andrea JungPresident and CEO, Grameen AmericaCompensation Committee Chair 
    Nominating Committee
    Ronald D. SugarFormer Chairman and CEO,
    Northrop Grumman Corporation
    Audit Committee Chair
    Susan L. WagnerCo-founder and Director, BlackRockNominating Committee Chair
    Audit Committee

    "Apple's Board of Directors oversees the Chief Executive Officer and other senior management in the competent and ethical operation of Apple on a day-to-day basis and assures that the long-term interests of shareholders are being served. To satisfy the Board's duties, directors are expected to take a proactive, focused approach to their positions, and set standards to ensure that Apple is committed to business success through the maintenance of high standards of responsibility and ethics."
    https://investor.apple.com/leadership-and-governance/default.aspx <--

    The problem is the board of directors didn't read the last word in that decree: "ethics"... all they saw was "interests of shareholders" and "business success". These are contradictory criteria, and you know which one wins.

    May I remind people that normally I am one of Apple's biggest supporters on this website, but I'm not a supporter when it comes to their ethics. Of course, I can't see ethics in most other companies either, so Apple is just run-of-the-mill on ethics.
    edited October 2020 cat52cornchipplanetary paulPetrolDavetnet-primaryiHyOfer
  • Reply 6 of 29
    Can someone explain to us how Telegram works?  Individual channels aren't posted as updates that go through the App Store review process, are they?  So I'm going to assume, like most of the posters above, that Telegram is a platform that allows users to create "channels" during the normal use of the app.  Therefore, Apple learned of this because someone complained?  Even so, how is this different from any other messaging that flows through iOS apps every day?

    On the other hand, it sounds like Apple is insisting that channels that are used exclusively to publish the personal information (presumably addresses and schedules?) of individuals. ["Durov countered, saying the three accounts in question "consist entirely of personal information of violent oppressors and those who helped rig the elections," concluding that the removal of offending posts effectively equates to shutting down those channels."]  If there is a valid objection for interfering with speech, that's a pretty good reason.  In the US this past week there was talk about a group kidnapping and executing a midwestern governor.  This sounds like the same sort of information sharing.  I doubt they are sharing this information to mail birthday cards.

    Again, I don't see why Apple is involved.  I don't understand why Apple thinks this violates its rules.  But perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to assume that Apple is appeasing dictators and crushing democracy with these requests.  Hopefully they would have made the same move if it were the 
    Belarusian government posting the personal information of protesters using the Telegram app.
    cornchipplanetary paulcaladaniantenthousandthingspk22901NotoriousDEVmagman1979ronnOfer
  • Reply 7 of 29
    Huh, perhaps we should read the linked articles more carefully.  Here's the English translation of one:

    https://www.gazeta.ru/tech/news/2020/10/09/n_15056407.shtml
    "Representatives of the American company Apple denied the data on the requirements to remove Telegram channels about Belarus. RIA Novosti reports .
    The company said that they only turned to the Telegram administration with a request to take immediate action to delete personal data posted without the consent of specific individuals.
    Apple clarified that such requirements arose against the background of complaints from users. So, people said that their personal information was disclosed in Telegram channels.
    Apple representatives added that the service team did not object and promised to check the information received, and after investigation, give answers."

    In other words, this wasn't about the App Store at all.  Someone complained to Apple that their personal information was available via this app without their consent and Apple reached out to the creator of the App to seek deletion of this information.  Seems pretty reasonable and harmless--unless the Apple representative included an "or else" that isn't acknowledged by Apple.

    Perhaps we should be careful to take every tweet or complaint at face value.  Many times people completely mischaracterize what happened to make their case more compelling.

    Andy.HardwaketmayEsquireCatstenthousandthingswilliamlondonchiah4y3sForumPostmagman1979ronn
  • Reply 8 of 29
    If something felonious happens to a candidate and it can be shown access to the address came from Apple store provided  software,, Apple might have liability. Thus Apple is entitled to deny such content.



    Andy.HardwakeForumPostmagman1979ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 29
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,949member
    Huh, perhaps we should read the linked articles more carefully.  Here's the English translation of one:

    https://www.gazeta.ru/tech/news/2020/10/09/n_15056407.shtml
    "Representatives of the American company Apple denied the data on the requirements to remove Telegram channels about Belarus. RIA Novosti reports .
    The company said that they only turned to the Telegram administration with a request to take immediate action to delete personal data posted without the consent of specific individuals.
    Apple clarified that such requirements arose against the background of complaints from users. So, people said that their personal information was disclosed in Telegram channels.
    Apple representatives added that the service team did not object and promised to check the information received, and after investigation, give answers."

    In other words, this wasn't about the App Store at all.  Someone complained to Apple that their personal information was available via this app without their consent and Apple reached out to the creator of the App to seek deletion of this information.  Seems pretty reasonable and harmless--unless the Apple representative included an "or else" that isn't acknowledged by Apple.

    Perhaps we should be careful to take every tweet or complaint at face value.  Many times people completely mischaracterize what happened to make their case more compelling.

    Sounds like it was being used to doxx people.  Honestly, people here need to get off their soapboxes.  They’re being played.
    foregoneconclusionForumPostmike1magman1979ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 29
    Freedom of the press applies only against government, not private entities such as Apple. Further it protects only owners of presses, not content contributors.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 29
    fred1fred1 Posts: 935member
    As much as I agree with the protests going on right now in Belarus and have friends who are from there and live there, I can understand Apple not wanting to allow the dissemination of personal information about police and others there.  It's not a simple matter of taking sides with the regime or the protestors, it's all about putting individuals' lives in danger.
    tenthousandthingsforegoneconclusionForumPostmike1magman1979ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 29
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,919member
    Freedom of the press applies only against government, not private entities such as Apple. Further it protects only owners of presses, not content contributors.
    Yes, we know that. Moreover, there's no such right in Belarus. But the article covers two issues: (1) the suppression of apps within Belarus, and (2) Apple preventing developers from telling anyone why Apple is rejecting their apps. These are separate issues. There are decent people (like yourself) who won't object to Apple obeying local laws and blocking apps which break the law, but are you happy with Apple telling its developers that they are not allowed to state why Apple is rejecting their apps? That has nothing to do with local laws, and there's no rule in the App Store Guidelines that tells developers they cannot do that. Apple is simply acting like a dictator here telling developers what they can and cannot say, else their apps will be rejected.

    Would you be happy if the same thing happened in America? (I assume you are American). The equivalent in America would be for Apple to shut down an app which people were using to "dox" American politicians, let's say it was the FaceBook app, then telling the FaceBook developer that if Facebook told their customers WHY their apps were rejected, they would never be allowed to submit apps again. You're defending that? You're happy with Apple blocking American developers who criticize Apple or the government (or one political party) even if such behavior isn't against Apple's stated rules?
    Ofer
  • Reply 13 of 29
    Getting wildly different versions of this story depending on the source.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 29
    22july2013 said: Yes, we know that. Moreover, there's no such right in Belarus. But the article covers two issues: (1) the suppression of apps within Belarus, and (2) Apple preventing developers from telling anyone why Apple is rejecting their apps.
    Telling "anyone"? No. They're free to tell people anything they want about rejections etc. outside of the app itself. That's a standard approach in the software business and also the retail business. Apple is not the only company that does that. Imagine walking into a grocery store and seeing signs everywhere about products that were removed from the shelves or not allowed to be sold in the store. It's kind of ridiculous to expect that to be allowed in a business environment. 
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 29
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Huh, perhaps we should read the linked articles more carefully.  Here's the English translation of one:

    https://www.gazeta.ru/tech/news/2020/10/09/n_15056407.shtml
    "Representatives of the American company Apple denied the data on the requirements to remove Telegram channels about Belarus. RIA Novosti reports .
    The company said that they only turned to the Telegram administration with a request to take immediate action to delete personal data posted without the consent of specific individuals.
    Apple clarified that such requirements arose against the background of complaints from users. So, people said that their personal information was disclosed in Telegram channels.
    Apple representatives added that the service team did not object and promised to check the information received, and after investigation, give answers."

    In other words, this wasn't about the App Store at all.  Someone complained to Apple that their personal information was available via this app without their consent and Apple reached out to the creator of the App to seek deletion of this information.  Seems pretty reasonable and harmless--unless the Apple representative included an "or else" that isn't acknowledged by Apple.

    Perhaps we should be careful to take every tweet or complaint at face value.  Many times people completely mischaracterize what happened to make their case more compelling.

    Indeed.

    Apple later told Gazeta that it did not want to close the channels, but instead sought the removal of specific posts "disclosing personal information." Durov countered, saying the three accounts in question "consist entirely of personal information of violent oppressors and those who helped rig the elections," concluding that the removal of offending posts effectively equates to shutting down those channels.

    Sorry Durov, but you're wrong on all counts.

    Removing offending posts does not equate to shutting down channels. It's actually just removing the posts. You can post other stuff on the channel because … y'know … it hasn't been shut down.

    Secondly, if you're deciding who should be outed in order that those people should be attacked by random protestors, then I'm afraid you're as bad as the people you're trying to take down.

    And thirdly, the folk here who are braying that Apple is supporting a vile regime would be the same people who would be braying that it is Apple's fault that a wrongly-named individual was killed by a mob.

    I suppose that Apple should also have been dinged for forcing the platform to take down child pornography; I'm sure that must be against someone's idea of freedom of speech somewhere …


    edited October 2020 ForumPostmike1magman1979ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 29
    "Apple is simply acting like a dictator here telling developers what they can and cannot say, else their apps will be rejected."

    There are over 2M apps in the App Store. Any of you want to enforce anything on 2M developers AND allow those developers to bitch on Apple's platform or elsewhere when they feel negative?

    Businesses CAN'T run that way. Ask Walmart, Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, Oracle.
    magman1979ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 29
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,994member
    As brutal as the regime is, as despicable as doxxing is, it masks the core question.
    Why is this any of Apple's business?
    AFAIK the posts don't go through Apple's servers. It is a tool that, once the app is sold, has no contact with Apple or the AppStore. Others have compared it to Safari. You can do things with Safari that Apple would not approve of. Same goes for Twitter and Mail. Netflix has content that would not pass muster if pitched to AppleTV+. Apple doesn't hassle them because all of the content is outside of Apple's system. 
    Why is Telegram any different?
    This reminds me of when Apple landed on Tumblr because of some content they did not like. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. 
    Apple needs to stop trying to micromanage other people's platforms. They are only shooting themselves in the foot.
    Ofer
  • Reply 18 of 29
    Apple definitely appears to have crossed the line from platform to publisher. As others noted, they wouldn’t do this to a website viewed via Safari. 

    As a developer the ‘can’t post specifics of the developer agreement’ is odd too, then describing it as ‘irrelevant’. 

    Freedom of the press applies only against government, not private entities such as Apple. Further it protects only owners of presses, not content contributors.

  • Reply 19 of 29
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,432administrator
    Apple definitely appears to have crossed the line from platform to publisher. As others noted, they wouldn’t do this to a website viewed via Safari. 

    As a developer the ‘can’t post specifics of the developer agreement’ is odd too, then describing it as ‘irrelevant’. 

    Freedom of the press applies only against government, not private entities such as Apple. Further it protects only owners of presses, not content contributors.

    Nope. 230 is clear about this.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 29
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,034member
    Apple definitely appears to have crossed the line from platform to publisher. As others noted, they wouldn’t do this to a website viewed via Safari. 

    As a developer the ‘can’t post specifics of the developer agreement’ is odd too, then describing it as ‘irrelevant’. 

    Freedom of the press applies only against government, not private entities such as Apple. Further it protects only owners of presses, not content contributors.
    Nope. 230 is clear about this.
    How does section 230 apply to Belarus?
    iHy
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